Festive Meal – Tomato Biriyani with Thayir Pachadi and Milagu Chops

(My city Chennai has been devastated by floods over the last few weeks. I didn’t have power for most of this week and all our infrastructure and supplies are still patchy. I was not sure I would be able to post this but things have improved slightly today. I was not sure I should post this with all the pain and misery around us, but decided to go ahead as everyone needs cheering up and good wholesome food is necessary for keeping spirits high – even mine. If you are in/from Chennai I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well.)

The 12 Days of Christmas always started on the 12th of December for us, as that was my husband’s birthday. I used to cook special dishes every day and we all increased our girth – it wasn’t only the geese that were getting fat! This festive meal of Tomato Biriyani with Thayir Pachadi (onion raita) and Milagu Chops (pepper chops) was also one of our diet busters 🙂 These are three of the few recipes I have from my father’s mother, Kothai Devadas, who was an excellent cook but unfortunately lived far away in Erode so I rarely sampled her cooking.

Festive Tomato Biriyani - Kalas Kalai

Festive Meal – Tomato Biriyani with Thayir Pachadi and Milagu Chops

The special feature of this tomato biriyani is that my grandmother added the mint and coriander leaves immediately after the onion to extract the greatest flavour, rather than at the end which is the usual practise in other Indian recipes. Back in those days my grandmother and later on my mother used to get the cloves and cinnamon freshly ground on the grinding stone (ammi) by the maid. Now I have neither maid nor grinding stone and so I use readily available powders. Though the meat preparation is called chops it is actually a curry.

This is a complete meal which is energy and protein rich. The large amount of tomatoes added contributes Vitamin C as well as antioxidants. Though ghee has been added, the quantity is not large enough to alarm those who are on a low fat diet.


Tomato Biriyani

  • 4 C Basmati Rice
  • 4 large Onions
  • 1 kg Tomatoes
  • 1 ½ C Coriander Leaves
  • 1 ½ C Mint Leaves
  • 10 Green Chillies
  • 1 Lime – optional
  • 20 Garlic cloves
  • 10 cm piece Ginger
  • ½ tsp Turmeric Powder
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri Chilli Powder
  • 2 T Coriander Powder
  • ½ tsp Cinnamon Powder
  • ¼ tsp Clove Powder
  • 1 C Coconut Scrapings
  • ½ C Ghee (Clarified Butter)
  • 5 tsp Salt
  • 7 ½ C boiling Water

Thayir Pachadi

  • 2 large Onions
  • 1 large Green Chilli
  • ¼ C Coriander Leaves
  • 1 C thick Curds (Unsweetened Yoghurt)
  • ½ tsp Salt

Milagu Chops

  • ½ kg Mutton or Beef Cubes
  • 2 large Onions
  • 10 Garlic Cloves
  • 3 cm piece Ginger
  • 1 Lime
  • 1 sprig Curry Leaves
  • ½ C Coconut Scrapings
  • 2 tsp Pepper Powder
  • 1 T Coriander Powder
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri Chilli Powder
  • ¼ tsp Turmeric Powder
  • ¼ tsp Cinnamon Powder
  • 1/8 tsp Clove Powder
  • 3 T Ghee (Clarified Butter) or Vegetable Oil
  • 2 tsp Salt, or to taste
  • 1 C Water


Tomato Biriyani

  1. Wash and drain the basmati rice.
  2. Slice the onions thinly.
  3. Chop the tomatoes.
  4. Grind garlic and ginger together.
  5. Grind the coconut scrapings to a fine paste.
  6. Squeeze the lime to extract the juice.
  7. Heat the ghee in a very large heavy based pan.
  8. Add the onion and fry till translucent.
  9. Add the green chillies and fry for a minute.
  10. Add the coriander and mint leaves and fry for two minutes.
  11. Add the ginger and garlic paste and then the other masala powders (turmeric, kashmiri chilli, coriander, cinnamon, and clove).
  12. Cook on low heat till a nice aroma arises.
  13. Add the chopped tomatoes, increase the heat, stir and cook till the oil separates from the tomatoes.
  14. Add the ground coconut and mix well.
  15. Add the basmati rice and salt.
  16. Mix till all the grains are coated with the masala.
  17. Pour the boiling water over the rice. Mix well. Add the juice from lime.
  18. Bring to boil. Cover the vessel. Lower the heat and allow to cook.
  19. After 10 minutes open and mix the rice once. Cover the pan again.
  20. Cook till the rice is dry.
  21. Serve with thayir pachadi and milagu chops.

Thayir Pachadi

  1. Slice the onions.
  2. Deseed and dice the chillies.
  3. Chop coriander leaves.
  4. Whisk curds with salt.
  5. Add all the ingredients together and mix well.

Milagu Chops

  1. Slice the onions.
  2. Grind ginger and garlic together.
  3. Grind the coconut to a fine paste.
  4. Squeeze the lime to extract the juice.
  5. Heat the ghee or oil in a medium sized pressure cooker.
  6. Add the onion and fry till translucent.
  7. Add the ginger and garlic paste and fry. Add the powders and fry till a nice aroma arises.
  8. Add the meat pieces, mix, and fry on high heat.
  9. Add the coconut, salt, and lime juice. Mix well.
  10. Add one cup of water and close the cooker.
  11. Pressure cook for 20 minutes for mutton or 30 minutes for beef. Cool.
  12. Open cooker, add the curry leaves, mix, and serve.


Tomato Biriyani

  1. If country tomatoes (naattu thakkali) are used, the lime juice may be omitted as the tomatoes have a sour flavour. If hybrid tomatoes are used the lime juice must be added as the tomatoes have a sweet flavour.
  2. The mint and coriander leaves are added even before adding ginger and garlic paste to extract maximum flavour.

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